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Marvellous Mandarin Marmalade..

July 9, 2015


It’s been a very long time since my jam making days. In my twenties, I used to make and bottle my own preserves and sell them in a local restaurant for a bit of extra pocket-money. Lemon butter was my biggest seller, and then second: marmalade.

Since I edited sugar out of my diet, marmalade has been but a fond memory! And if I wasn’t indulging in a slice warm fruit toast and a cup of tea, marmalade on buttered toast would be an equal comfort.

Oh, to hell with it! Winter citrus is sooooo cheap at the moment and I need to keep up my skills – so a pot of marmalade it is!

Marmalade originated as a quince preserve in Greece where boiled fruit was transformed into “marmelo” (Portuguese) with the addition of honey.  Apicius gives a recipe for preserving whole quinces & lemons, stems and leaves attached, in a bath of honey – which was a Roman marmalade. Citrus fruit replaced quinces by the late 1600’s which produced a firm, thick dark paste.

We can thank the Scots for our modern marmalade as we know it now. They used more water to produce a less solid preserve and by the 1800’s had a better understanding of pectin and it’s setting properties. Traditionally it was only eaten in the evening with cold meats but the Scots moved marmalade to the breakfast table in the 19th century.

Who knew that this was an ancient food? Such a shame it falls short of paleo, by a few hundred thousand years!!!!

Despite having a had a keen history of making jam, this is the first time that I have made it in my slow cooker. Who would have thought? Back then I didn’t have a slow cooker and I am telling you that it is much MUCH easier!! No constant stirring or skimming. No marbles knocking away at the bottom (remember that?!) Just slice everything up and bung it in. You do need some patience though! It will take at least 6 hours and a watchful eye at the end, although the risk of burning is much less.


I have used mandarins in this recipe as they are lovely and fragrant and I found them for 99c a kilogram recently.

They have less pectin than oranges or lemons so I have added some extra. You can find pectin in the health food shop as citrus pectin or in the supermarket as jam setter. Jam setter is mixed with sugar and anti-caking agent, so I prefer to use the pure stuff.

Incidentally, about pectin:

Jams and preserves use naturally occurring pectin as a setting agent. The pectin content varies in different fruits but berries, peaches and apricots, and most citrus fruits already contain quite a lot of it.

Your intestines can’t absorb pectin in its natural form. This makes it an effective source of fibre. Citrus pectin powder has been processed to make it more easily absorbed.  If you Google it, there are a variety of health claims for pectin. Blood detoxification, cellular health, and ridding your body of heavy metals are some but are not substantiated by science.  Pectin acts as an effective source of dietary fibre and so can aid lowering cholesterol as well as keeping you ‘regular’. Some people have it as a useful supplement in their diet.

Anyway, back to the marmalade…. I like to slice my peel up into neat julienne – I’m a bit OCD in this regard but if you can’t be bothered you could give your whole fruit a pulse in the TM a few times.  I have also seen recipes that involve gathering the pips and pith and tying them up in a muslin cloth to extract the pectin. I may be OCD but not THAT much!! I don’t bother! If you use Imperial mandarins, they have very few seeds and a thinner skin – see here about other mandarin varieties.

My dad loves a nice marmalade, spread very thickly on toast – it’s his birthday today – Happy birthday Dad!

Oh, and another thing: marmalade can vary from being very firm to completely runny. I tend to like mine in between. Cooking it further will make it thicker but will compromise the flavour and colour. Mandarins have less pectin which make them harder to gel. And their fragrance can be lost if over-cooked. You need to find a happy medium that suits you. Do weigh your fruit as the fruit:sugar ratio is important.


1.5kg Imperial mandarins (about 16 small)

1kg sugar (light coconut sugar is better but will give a much darker colour)

2 lemons, juiced

600g water

40g citrus pectin*

Peel the mandarins and julienne (or chop) HALF of the skins finely. Place in the bottom of your slow cooker. Roughly dice the flesh and place on top.  Add the water and the lemon juice and cook on HIGH for 3 hours. Do not stir, you want the rind to be submersed and the flesh to steam.

Mix the pectin with the sugar and add to the slow cooker. Stir to dissolve and cook for a further 3½ hours on HIGH with the lid slightly tipped to allow for some evaporation.

Test for gelling and cook for another 30 minutes if too runny. Different fruit will gel at different rates, so you may have to test every 30 or 15 minutes after 3 hours.

To test: place a saucer in the freezer for about 15 minutes. When testing your jam, stir the jam and place a few drops on the cold saucer and leave for 10 minutes. Stick your finger in it and see if a skin has formed or it ‘gels’. If it doesn’t, and has the consistency of syrup, it isn’t ready yet.

*If you don’t want to use pectin, you will end up with a beautiful flavoured, but very runny jam. Which goes great on ice-cream!

One Comment leave one →
  1. crescentmoonramblings permalink
    July 10, 2015 8:21 pm

    Sarah, I love the history lesson. Fascinating! I haven’t had marmalade for ages either due to being off sugar and bread, it’s sorely missed. I do like the look of the darker jam with coconut sugar.

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